Authenticity is the be-all and end-all: Consumers want brands that stay true to themselves

Authenticity is the be-all and end-all: Consumers want brands that stay true to themselves
Published on: Dec 18, 2016
Updated: Aug 18, 2022

How do you become credible as a brand?

Brands that want to appear authentic, honest and trustworthy should remember three simple words: Reliability, Respect and Realness. This short but important lesson comes from a comprehensive study by global communications agency Cohn & Wolfe.

Authentic brands understand that as people, their customers value thoughtful communication - while their privacy and data should be protected.

The 2016 survey of nearly 12,000 consumers in 14 markets worldwide analyzes how customers define a brand's "authenticity." It highlights an important opportunity for companies to enhance their image and expand their customer base by addressing a credibility problem that is pervasive globally. Authentic brands are well on their way to being at the forefront.

Consumers spell "authenticity" with three "Rs"

First, the facts: the study says, for example, that nearly 80% of consumers see a rather disappointing, even frustrating, "lack of authenticity" in the global marketplace. One criticism: countless companies do not communicate honestly or openly, nor do they respect basic privacy rights. Cohn & Wolf uses the three R's explained below to develop an understanding of how consumers define "authenticity" - and to show companies how to turn a perception problem into a positive business strategy. The survey shows:

  • "Reliable brands" deliver on the promises of their goods and services, so consumers get exactly what they expect from their purchase, with consistently high quality.
  • "Respectful brands" understand their customers as individuals who want and deserve interactions that are tailored to them and courteous. They also protect consumers' privacy and data - a trend that is evident across all industries surveyed.
  • "Real brands" set and achieve three goals for customer satisfaction: they communicate honestly, present themselves "genuinely," and act prudently.

These three R's are more important than other measures of authenticity, such as acting socially and environmentally sustainable or "just" uphold the values of the company. So this means: customers value their own personal experience with the brand much more than high ideals of the company.

Recognizing the credibility gap is not enough, you also have to bridge it


One problem is that more than 75% of consumers cynically dismiss openness or honesty from brands. That's a dismal prospect, of course (unless you compare it to, say, a dismal 96% in Sweden). But savvy Brands shouldn't let that deter them. Where there's a challenge, there's an opportunity - and here, too, it can be worthwhile. The Cohn & Wolfe study showed: nearly nine out of ten consumers worldwide would reward brands for successful positioning. These "rewards" can be:

  • 52% would recommend the brand to others
  • .
  • 49% would remain loyal to the brand
  • 48% would value the brand more
  • 20% would be interested in joining the brand
  • .
  • 20% could imagine investing in the brand

So by taking appropriate action, companies with a strong and authentic brand profile can attract customers, build long-term relationships, and also expand their employee base - and ultimately achieve their business goals further and further.

Who do consumers trust?

Cohn & Wolfe analyzed extensive customer data related to consumer perceptions of authenticity to create a list of the 100 highest-ranking global companies. Disney, BMW, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple all ranked high.

In addition to these giants in the brand world, other companies known for creating unique customer experiences also scored well. Examples would be Levis, Adidas, Nike and Chanel, which cannot dominate the market on their own compared to Apple or Amazon. However, they foster trust and inspire deep brand loyalty through consistent "authentic" communication with customers. As Donna Imperato, CEO of Cohn & Wolfe, puts it, "The brands that rank high on the Authentic 100 list have proven time and again, through genuine dialogue with their customers, that they care about more than just their bottom line."

In other words, successful brands know how to stay true to themselves and can communicate that.

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